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|Kingdom of Bhutan|
| འབྲུག་ རྒྱལ་ཁབ་ |
|National anthem||Druk tsendhen|
|Official language||Dzongkha, English|
|Government type||Constitutional monarchy|
|King||Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck|
|Prime Minister||Kinzang Dorji|
|Area|| 13 1/2 Yd. Sq. km² |
18,147 mi² (131st)
(negligible % water)
|Population density|| 45/km² (149th) |
|GDP (PPP)|| Total:$3.007 billion (160th) |
Per capita:$1,400 (117th)
|HDI||0.538 (medium) (135th) (2004)|
|Time zone|| BTT (UTC+6:00) |
Summer:not observed (UTC+6:00)
|Country codes|| Internet TLD : .bt |
Calling code : +975
The Kingdom of Bhutan (buː'tɑːn) is a landlocked nation in the Himalaya Mountains, sandwiched between India and China in South Asia. The local name for the country is Druk Yul. It is also called Druk Tsendhen (land of the thunder dragon), because the thunder there is said to be the sound of roaring dragons. Historically Bhutan was known by many names, such as Lho Mon (southern land of darkness), Lho Tsendenjong (southern land of the cypress), and Lhomen Khazhi (southern land of four approaches). The origins of the name Bhutan are unclear; historians have suggested that it may have originated in variations of the Sanskrit words Bhota-ant (the end of Bhot – another word for Tibet), or Bhu-uttan (highlands). The word Bhutan as a name for the country dates from the late 19th century.
Bhutan is one of the most isolated and least developed nations in the world; however, the country maintains strong economic and cultural links with India. Foreign influences and tourism are heavily regulated by the government to preserve the country's traditional culture and national identity. The landscape ranges from subtropical plains in the south to the Himalayan heights in the north, with some peaks exceeding seven thousand metres. Mahayana Buddhism is the state religion and accounts for about half the population. Thimphu is the capital and largest city.
"Bhutan" may be derived from the Sanskrit word Bhu-Utthan meaning "High Land". In another theory of Sanskritisation, Bhots-ant means "End of Tibet" or "South of Tibet". The Dzongkha (and Tibetan) name for the country is Druk Yul ("Dragon Land").
Historically, Bhutan has been known by many names, such as Lho Mon ("Southern Land of Darkness"), Lho Tsendenjong ("Southern Land of the Sandalwood"), Lhomen Khazhi ("Southern Land of Four Approaches"), and Lho Men Jong ("Southern Land of Medicinal Herbs").
Stone tools, weapons, elephants, shankar sharans and remnants of large stone structures provide evidence that Bhutan was inhabited as early as 2000 BCE. There are no scientifically proven records though and such statements are sheer hypothetical conclusions. Historians have theorized that the state of Lhomon (literally, "southern darkness"), or Monyul ("Dark Land", a reference to the Monpa, the aboriginal peoples of Bhutan) may have existed between 500 BCE and 600 CE. The names Lhomon Tsendenjong (Sandalwood Country), and Lhomon Khashi, or Southern Mon (country of four approaches) have been found in ancient Bhutanese and Tibetan chronicles.
The earliest transcribed event in Bhutan was the passage of the Buddhist saint Padma Sambhava (also called Guru Rinpoche) in the 747 CE. Bhutan's early history is unclear, because most of the records were destroyed after fire ravaged Punakha, the ancient capital in 1827. By the tenth century, Bhutan's political development was heavily influenced by its religious history. However, there are no sufficient information stating that all historical records were available before the fire. Various sub-sects of Buddhism emerged which were patronized by the various Mongol and Tibetan overlords. After the decline of the Mongols in the fourteenth century, these sub-sects vied with each other for supremacy in the political and religious landscape, eventually leading to the ascendancy of the Drukpa sub-sect by the sixteenth century.
Until the early 17th century, Bhutan existed as a patchwork of minor warring fiefdoms when the area was unified by the Tibetan lama and military leader Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal. To defend the country against intermittent Tibetan forays, Namgyal built a network of impregnable dzong (fortresses), and promulgated a code of law that helped to bring local lords under centralized control. Many such dzong still exist. After Namgyal's death in 1651, Bhutan fell into anarchy. Taking advantage of the chaos, the Tibetans attacked Bhutan in 1710, and again in 1730 with the help of the Mongols. Both assaults were successfully thwarted, and an armistice was signed in 1759. One of the most famous Dzongs (or Durbars) was constructed at Saureni in Samchi district. As this Dzong was constructed by a renowned person of Nepali origin, no effort was ever made to preserve this monument and has been completely wiped out today.
In the 18th century, the Bhutanese invaded and occupied the kingdom of Cooch Behar to the south. In 1772, Cooch Behar appealed to the British East India Company who assisted them in ousting the Bhutanese, and later in attacking Bhutan itself in 1774. A peace treaty was signed in which Bhutan agreed to retreat to its pre-1730 borders. However, the peace was tenuous, and border skirmishes with the British were to continue for the next one hundred years. The skirmishes eventually led to the Duar War (1864–1865), a confrontation over who would control the Bengal Duars. After Bhutan lost the war, the Treaty of Sinchula was signed between British India and Bhutan. As part of the war reparations, the Duars were ceded to the Great Britain in exchange for a rent of Rs. 50,000. The treaty ended all hostilities between British India and Bhutan.
During the 1870s, power struggles between the rival valleys of Paro and Trongsa led to civil war in Bhutan, eventually leading to the ascendancy of Ugyen Wangchuck, the ponlop (governor) of Tongsa. From his power base in central Bhutan, Ugyen Wangchuck defeated his political enemies and united the country following several civil wars and rebellions in the period 1882–1885.
In 1907, an epochal year for the country, Ugyen Wangchuck was unanimously chosen as the hereditary king of the country by an assembly of leading Buddhist monks, government officials, and heads of important families. The British government promptly recognized the new monarchy, and in 1910 Bhutan signed a treaty which "let" Great Britain "guide" Bhutan's foreign affairs. In reality this did not mean much given Bhutan's historical reticence. It also did not seem to apply to Bhutan's traditional relations with Tibet. The greatest impact of this treaty seems to be the perception that it meant Bhutan was not totally sovereign.
After India gained independence on August 15, 1947, Bhutan became one of the first countries to recognize India's independence.
After the British left the region, a treaty similar to the one of 1910 was signed in August 1949 with the newly independent India.
After the Chinese People's Liberation Army entered Tibet in 1951, Bhutan sealed its northern frontier and improved bilateral ties with India. To reduce the risk of Chinese encroachment, Bhutan began a modernisation program that was largely sponsored by India. In 1953, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck established the country's legislature – a 130-member National Assembly – to promote a more democratic form of governance. In 1965, he set up a Royal Advisory Council, and in 1968 he formed a Cabinet. In 1971, Bhutan was admitted to the United Nations, having held observer status for three years. In July 1972, Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended to the throne at the age of 16 after the death of his father, Dorji Wangchuck.
In the 1980s, Bhutan began a "one nation, one people" campaign, to foster greater integration among different ethnic and cultural groups in Bhutan. With the later Driglam namzha decree from the King in 1989, usage of Dzongkha was fostered as the national language. This policy forced out more than 100,000 citizens of Nepali origin from Southern Bhutan to the refugee camps in Nepal. Bhutan rigorously used its irregular Militia forces (similar to the Zanzawis in Sudan) to force out the majority of the population from the south.
In 1998, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck introduced significant political reforms, transferring some of his powers to the Prime Minister and allowing for impeachment of the King by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly. In late 2003, the Bhutanese army successfully launched a large-scale operation to flush out anti-India insurgents who were operating training camps in southern Bhutan.
In 1999, the king also lifted a ban on television and the Internet, making Bhutan one of the last countries to introduce television. In his speech, the king said that television was a critical step to the modernization of Bhutan as well as a major contributor to the country's Gross National Happiness (Bhutan is the only country to measure happiness) but warned against the misuse of television which may erode traditional Bhutanese values. Some believe it has indeed affected Bhutan in a negative way
A new constitution was presented in early 2005 which will be put up for ratification by a referendum before coming into force. In December 2005, Jigme Singye Wangchuck announced that he would abdicate the throne in his son's favour in 2008 . On December 14, 2006, he stunned his countrymen by announcing that he would be abdicating immediately.
On February 8, 2007, the Template:PDFlink was substantially revised. Whereas in the Treaty of 1949 Article 2 read as "The Government of India undertakes to exercise no interference in the internal administration of Bhutan. On its part the Government of Bhutan agrees to be guided by the advice of the Government of India in regard to its external relations.", in the revised treaty it now reads as "In keeping with the abiding ties of close friendship and cooperation between Bhutan and India, the Government of the Kingdom of Bhutan and the Government of the Republic of India shall cooperate closely with each other on issues relating to their national interests. Neither Government shall allow the use of its territory for activities harmful to the national security and interest of the other."
The revised treaty also includes in it the preamble "Reaffirming their respect for each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity;", an element that was absent in the earlier version. The Indo-Bhutan Friendship Treaty of 2007 thus lays to rest any questions that may have existed in regard to the independence and sovereignty of Bhutan.
Military and foreign affairs
The Royal Bhutan Army is Bhutan's military service. It includes the Royal Bodyguard and the Royal Bhutan Police. Membership is voluntary, and the minimum age for recruitment is 18. The standing army numbers about 6,000 and is trained by the Indian Army. It has an annual budget of about US$13.7 million—1.8% of the GDP. Since 1990, Bhutan has completely stopped the recruitment of its nationals of Nepali origin into the Army.
Though the 1949 Treaty with India is still sometimes misinterpreted to mean that India controls Bhutan's foreign affairs, Bhutan today handles all of its foreign affairs itself including the sensitive (to India) border demarcation issue with China. Bhutan has diplomatic relations with 22 countries, including the European Union, with missions in India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Kuwait. It has two UN missions, one in New York and one in Geneva. Only India and Bangladesh have residential embassies in Bhutan, while Thailand has a consulate office in Bhutan.
By a long standing treaty, Indian and Bhutanese citizens may travel to each other's countries without a passport or visa using their national identity cards instead. Bhutanese citizens may also work in India without legal restriction. Bhutan does not have formal diplomatic ties with its northern neighbour, China, although exchanges of visits at various levels between the two have significantly increased in the recent past. The first bilateral agreement between China and Bhutan was signed in 1998, and Bhutan has also set up consulates in Macau and Hong Kong. Bhutan’s border with China is largely not demarcated and thus disputed in some places.
On November 13, 2005, Chinese soldiers crossed into Bhutan under the pretext that environmental conditions had forced their retreat south from the Himalayas. The Bhutanese government allowed this incursion (after the fact) on humanitarian grounds. Soon after, the Chinese began building roads and bridges within Bhutanese territory.  Bhutanese Foreign Minister Khandu Wangchuk took up the matter with Chinese authorities after the issue was raised in Bhutanese parliament. In response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang of the People's Republic of China has said that the border remains in dispute (completely ignoring the original official pretext for the incursion) and that the two sides continue to work for a peaceful and cordial resolution of the dispute. An Indian intelligence officer has said that a Chinese delegation in Bhutan told the Bhutanese that they were "overreacting." The Bhutanese newspaper Kuensel has said that China might use the roads to further Chinese claims along the border.
Bhutan has no formal relations with the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom or France. This is possibly done deliberately so Bhutan is not seen as an enemy to China, these nations all being members of the United Nations Security Council. Informal contact with the United States is made through the U.S. embassy in New Delhi.
Government and politics
Politics of Bhutan takes place in the framework of an absolute monarchy developing into a constitutional monarchy. In 1999, the fourth king of Bhutan created a ten member body called the Lhengye Zhungtshog (Council of Ministers). The King of Bhutan is head of state. Executive power is exercised by the Lhengye Zhungtshog, the council of ministers. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. Now as the country is preparing to usher historic changes by introducing the parliamentary democracy in 2008, works are in full swing and political parties are now legal. The new democratic system will comprise an upper and lower house, the latter based on political party affiliations. There are currently two political parties, following a recent merger. Elections for the upper house begin in October 2007. The Judicial power is vested in all the courts of Bhutan. The Chief Justice is the administrative head of the Judiciary.
The northern region consists of an arc of glaciated mountain peaks with an extremely cold climate at the highest elevations. Most peaks in the north are over 23,000 feet (7,000 m) above sea level; the highest point is claimed to be the Kula Kangri, at 24,780 feet (7,553 m), but detailed topographic studies claim Kula Kangri is wholly in Tibet and modern Chinese measurements claim that Gangkhar Puensum, which has the distinction of being the highest unclimbed mountain in the world, is higher at 24,835 feet (7,570 m). Watered by snow-fed rivers, alpine valleys in this region provide pasture for livestock, tended by a sparse population of migratory shepherds.
The Black Mountains in central Bhutan form a watershed between two major river systems: the Mo Chhu and the Drangme Chhu. Peaks in the Black Mountains range between 4,900 feet and 8,900 feet (1,500 m and 2,700 m) above sea level, and fast-flowing rivers have carved out deep gorges in the lower mountain areas. Woodlands of the central region provide most of Bhutan's forest production. The Torsa, Raidak, Sankosh, and Manas are the main rivers of Bhutan, flowing through this region. Most of the population lives in the central highlands.
In the south, the Shiwalik Hills are covered with dense, deciduous forests, alluvial lowland river valleys, and mountains up to around 4,900 feet (1,500 m) above sea level. The foothills descend into the subtropical Duars plain. Most of the Duars is located in India, although a 6–9 mile (10–15 km) wide strip extends into Bhutan. The Bhutan Duars is divided into two parts: the northern and the southern Duars. The northern Duars, which abuts the Himalayan foothills, has rugged, sloping terrain and dry, porous soil with dense vegetation and abundant wildlife. The southern Duars has moderately fertile soil, heavy savannah grass, dense, mixed jungle, and freshwater springs. Mountain rivers, fed by either the melting snow or the monsoon rains, empty into the Brahmaputra river in India. Data released by the Ministry of agriculture showed that the country had a forest cover of 64% as of October 2005.
The climate in Bhutan varies with altitude, from subtropical in the south to temperate in the highlands and polar-type climate, with year-round snow, in the north. Bhutan experiences five distinct seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. Western Bhutan has the heavier monsoon rains; southern Bhutan has hot humid summers and cool winters; central and eastern Bhutan is temperate and drier than the west with warm summers and cool winters.
Though Bhutan's economy is one of the world's smallest, it has grown very rapidly with about 8% in 2005 and 14% in 2006. As of March 2006, Bhutan's per capita income was US$ 1,321 making it one of the fastest growing in South Asia. Bhutan's standard of living is growing faster than that of its neighbouring countries and is one of the highest in South Asia. Bhutan's small economy is based on agriculture, forestry, and the sale of hydroelectric power to India. Agriculture provides the main livelihood for more than 80% of the population. Agrarian practices consist largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry. Handicrafts, particularly weaving and the manufacture of religious art for home altars are a small cottage industry and a source of income for some. A landscape that varies from hilly to ruggedly mountainous has made the building of roads, and other infrastructure, difficult and expensive. This, and a lack of access to the sea, has meant that Bhutan has never been able to benefit from significant trading of its produce. Bhutan currently does not have a railway system, though Indian Railways plans to link up southern Bhutan with its vast network under an agreement signed in January 2005. The historic trade routes over the high Himalayas, which connected India to Tibet, have been closed since the 1959 military takeover of Tibet (although smuggling activity still brings Chinese goods into Bhutan).
The industrial sector is minimal, production being of the cottage-industry type. Most development projects, such as road construction, rely on Indian contract labour. Agricultural produce includes rice, chilies, dairy (yak) products, buckwheat, barley, root crops, apples, and citrus and maize at lower elevations. Industries include cement, wood products, processed fruits, alcoholic beverages and calcium carbide.
Bhutan's currency, the ngultrum, is pegged to the Indian Rupee. The rupee is also accepted as legal tender in the country. Incomes of over Nu 100,000 per annum are taxed, but very few wage and salary earners qualify. Bhutan's inflation rate was estimated at about 3% in 2003. Bhutan has a Gross Domestic Product of around $2.9 billion (adjusted to Purchasing Power Parity), making it the 162nd largest economy in the world. Per capita income is around $1,400 (€1,170), ranked 124th. Government revenues total €122 million ($146 million), though expenditures amount to €127 million ($152 million). 60% of the budget expenditure, however, is financed by India's Ministry of External Affairs. Bhutan's exports, principally electricity, cardamom, gypsum, timber, handicrafts, cement, fruit, precious stones and spices, total €128 million ($154 million) (2000 est.). Imports, however, amount to €164 million ($196 million), leading to a trade deficit. Main items imported include fuel and lubricants, grain, machinery, vehicles, fabrics and rice. Bhutan's main export partner is India, accounting for 87.9% of its export goods. Bangladesh (4.6%) and the Philippines (2%) are the other two top export partners. As its border with Tibet is closed, trade between Bhutan and China is now almost non-existent. Bhutan's import partners include India (71.3%), Japan (7.8%) and Austria (3%).
The existing paper currency is being revised and new notes are developed to replace the existing old ones. As of now, denominations of Ngultrum one and Ngultrum five have been introduced. Coins are also very much in use in Bhutan.
In a response to accusations in 1987 by a journalist from UK's Financial Times that the pace of development in Bhutan was slow, the King said that "Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product." This statement appears to have presaged recent findings by western economic psychologists, including 2002 Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman, that question the link between levels of income and happiness. The statement signaled his commitment to building an economy that is appropriate for Bhutan's unique culture, based on Buddhist spiritual values, and has served as a unifying vision for the economy. In addition, the policy seems to be reaping the desired results: in a recent survey organized by the University of Leicester in the UK, Bhutan was ranked as the planet's 8th happiest place. 
Bhutan is divided into four dzongdey (administrative zones). Each dzongdey is further divided into dzongkhag (districts). There are twenty dzongkhag in Bhutan. Large dzongkhags are further divided into subdistricts known as dungkhag. At the basic level, groups of villages form a constituency called gewog and are administered by a gup, who is elected by the people.
Cities and towns
- Jakar, the admistrative headquarters of Bumthang District and the place where Buddhism entered Bhutan.
- Mongar, the eastern commercial hub of the country.
- Paro, site of the international airport.
- Punakha, the old capital.
- Phuentsholing, Bhutan's commercial hub.
- Samdrup Jongkhar
- Thimphu, the largest city and capital of Bhutan.
- Trashigang, the most populous district in the country.
- Trongsa, in central Bhutan which has the largest and the most magnificent of all the dzongs in Bhutan.
The population of Bhutan, once estimated at several million, has now been officially downgraded by the Bhutanese government to 750,000, after a census in the early nineties. An extensive census done in June of 2005 resulted in a further reduction of the population figure to 672,425 . Most believe that the population was artificially inflated in the seventies because of an earlier perception that nations with populations of less than a million would not be admitted to the United Nations. Hence the United Nation population figures are much higher than the figures provided by the government. The CIA World Factbook is likely to have used this as its base figure and gives a population figure of 2,327,849 (as of May 2007) while also noting that some estimates are as low as 810,000.
The population density, 45 per square kilometre (117/sq mi), makes Bhutan one of the least densely populated countries in Asia. Roughly 20% of the population lives in urban areas composed of small towns mainly along the central valley and the southern border. This percentage is increasing rapidly as the pace of rural to urban migration has been picking up. The largest town is the capital, Thimphu, which has a population of 50,000. Other urban areas with significant populations are Paro and Phuentsholing.
Among the Bhutanese people, several principal ethnic groups may be distinguished. The second dominant group is the Ngalops, a Buddhist group based in the western part of the country. Their culture is closely related to that of Tibet. Much the same could be said of the Sharchops ("Easterners")the dominant group, who are associated with the eastern part of Bhutan (but who traditionally follow the Nyingmapa rather than the official Drukpa Kagyu form of Tibetan Buddhism). They are called the Eastern Bhutanese and Western Bhutanese respectively.
The national language is Dzongkha, one of 53 languages in the Tibetan language family. The script, here called Chhokey ("Dharma Language"), is identical with the Tibetan script. A number of Nepali dialects are spoken in parts of southern Bhutan. Khengkha is spoken in central Bhutan. In the schools English is the medium of instruction and Dzongkha is taught as the national language. Ethnologue lists 24 languages currently spoken in Bhutan, all of them in the Tibeto-Burman family, except Nepali, an Indo-Aryan language. The teaching of Nepali language, predominantly spoken by around 30% of the citizens of Nepali ethnicity, was totally banned by the Government in late 80s. To dilute the influence of Nepali language in the country, there is a rigorous effort to compare it with local dialects, spoken by hardly 20,000 people in some cases. The languages of Bhutan are still not well-characterized, and several have yet to be recorded in an in-depth academic grammar. English now has official status as well.
The literacy rate is only 42.2% (56.2% of males and 28.1% of females), 14-year olds and younger comprise 39.1%, while people between 15 and 59 comprise 56.9%, and those over 60 are only 4%. The country has a median age of 20.4 years. Bhutan has a life expectancy of 62.2 years (61 for males and 64.5 for females) according to the latest data from the World Bank. There are 1,070 males to every 1,000 females in the country.
Bhutan has the richest and one of world's finest cultural heritages that has largely remained intact due to its isolation from the rest of the world till early 1960s. One of the main attractions of the tourists in Bhutan is culture and its traditions. The government is increasingly making efforts to sustain the current culture and tradition and Bhutan has aptly been referred to as the 'The Last Shangri-la'.
While the Bhutanese are free to travel abroad, Bhutan is seen to be inaccessible to foreigners. There is a widespread misperception that Bhutan has set limits on tourist visas. The high tourist tariff and the requirement to go on packaged tours may have created this impression. Tourists are not allowed to visit any part of Southern Bhutan, with a very wrong pretext that the southern region is not secure.
Boys at a festival wearing traditional dress, the gho. The traditional dress for Ngalong and Sharchop men is the gho, a knee-length robe tied at the waist by a cloth belt known as the kera. Women wear an ankle-length dress, the kira, which is clipped at one shoulder and tied at the waist. An accompaniment to the kira is a long-sleeved blouse, the toego, which is worn underneath the outer layer. Social status and class determine the texture, colours, and decorations that embellish the garments. Scarves and shawls are also indicators of social standings, as Bhutan has traditionally been a feudal society. Earrings are worn by females. Controversially, Bhutanese law now requires all Bhutanese citizens to wear these garments in public.
Rice, and increasingly maize, are the staple foods of the country. The diet in the hills also includes chickens, yaks, cows and sheep. Soups of meat, rice, and dried vegetables spiced with chillies and cheese are a favourite meal during the cold seasons. Dairy foods, particularly butter and cheese from yaks and cows, are also popular, and indeed almost all milk is turned to butter and cheese. Popular beverages include butter tea, tea, locally brewed rice wine and beer. Bhutan is the only country in the world to have banned the sale of tobacco.
Bhutan's national sport is archery, and competitions are held regularly in most villages. It differs from Olympic standards not only in technical details such as the placement of the targets and atmosphere. There are two targets placed over 100 metres apart and teams shoot from one end of the field to the other. Each member of the team shoots two arrows per round. Traditional Bhutanese archery is a social event and competitions are organized between villages, towns, and amateur teams. There are usually plenty of food and drink complete with singing and dancing. Wives and supporters of the participating teams cheer. Attempts to distract an opponent include standing around the target and making fun of the shooter's ability. Darts (khuru) is an equally popular outdoor team sport, in which heavy wooden darts pointed with a 10 cm nail are thrown at a paperback-sized target ten to twenty metres away.
Another traditional sport is the digor, which can be best described as shot put combined with horseshoe throwing. Football is an increasingly popular sport. In 2002, Bhutan's national football team played Montserrat - billed as 'The Other Final', the match took place on the same day Brazil played Germany in the World Cup Final, but at the time Bhutan and Montserrat were the world's two lowest ranked teams. The match was held in Thimphu's Changlimithang National Stadium, and Bhutan won 4-0. A documentary of the match was made by the Dutch filmmaker Johan Kramer. Rigsar is the new emergent style of popular music, played on a mix of traditional instruments and electronic keyboards, and dates back to the early 1990s; it shows the influence of Indian popular music, a hybrid form of traditional and Western popular influences. Traditional genres include the zhungdra and boedra.
Characteristic of the region is a type of fortress known as the dzong. This contains the religious and secular administration for each district.
Bhutan has numerous public holidays, most of which centre around traditional seasonal, secular and religious festivals. They include the winter solstice (around January 1, depending on the lunar calendar), the lunar New Year (February or March), the King's birthday and the anniversary of his coronation, the official start of monsoon season (September 22), National Day (December 17), and various Buddhist and Hindu celebrations. Even the secular holidays have religious overtones, including religious dances and prayers for blessing the day.
Masked dances and dance dramas are common traditional features at festivals, usually accompanied by traditional music. Energetic dancers, wearing colourful wooden or composition facemasks and stylized costumes, depict heroes, demons, dæmons, death heads, animals, gods, and caricatures of common people. The dancers enjoy royal patronage, and preserve ancient folk and religious customs and perpetuate the ancient lore and art of mask-making.
Inheritance in Bhutan generally goes in the female rather than the male line. Daughters will inherit their parents' house. A man is expected to make his own way in the world and often moves to his wife's home. Love marriages are the norm. There is no tradition of arranged marriages and, though uncommon, polygamy and polyandry are accepted. This is often a device to keep property in a contained family unit rather than dispersing it. Former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck is married to four sisters.
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